There’s nothing like meaningful fall baseball. There’s a tangible buzz at the park, concourses are packed and players have no idea what color the seats are when a team is vying for a playoff berth. For the fourth straight year the Phillies are simply playing out the string as autumn commences. But that wasn’t so for the Reading Fightins this season.
The Phillies Double-A affiliate came within a game of winning the Eastern League Championship last weekend. The Bowie Baysox beat the Reading Phillies, 7-2, Saturday night in the decisive game five of the Eastern Championship Series.
For those who traveled to FirstEnergy Stadium to watch the Fightin’ Phils last week for game one and two of the series, it took you back to how enjoyable good crisp baseball is played just before the leaves turn brown.
Sweet swinging Nick Williams made a run-saving diving catch. Zach Eflin made an exceptional start. J.P. Crawford had a couple of big hits. Lines at the concession stands were short every time Andrew Knapp, who was recently named the organization’s top hitting prospect, stepped to the plate.
“The people coming out here are seeing the future,” Crawford said. “We are the future.”
The Phillies top prospect is correct.The physically gifted shortstop is not only the Phillies top prospect but he also looks like he’ll be a MLB difference maker, perhaps as early as the latter part of the 2016 season.
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Williams and Jake Thompson, a big, intimidating pitcher have each been tremendous since being acquired in the Cole Hamels trade.
“It’s great to be part of this,” Williams said. “It looks like there is some opportunity.”
That’s obviously the case. The Phillies may as well have put up a help wanted sign in the Citizens Bank Park outfield in May. It was that bad this season. But by witnessing the Reading Phillies playoff run, there’s assistance on the way.
“We have a bunch of guys here that can really play,” Crawford said. “We’re waiting our turn but we can’t wait.”
Crawford has had fun during his season in Reading.
“It’s a great atmosphere,” Crawford said. “The fans are great and this team is special.”
Expect Crawford to move up to Triple-A Lehigh Valley next season with one eye on the show.
“But it’s not just about me (rising in the ranks),” Crawford said. “There’s a lot of other guys (that should join Crawford one day in Philadelphia).”
That’s good news for the Phillies, who can use all the help they can get.